Of Brazilian Opal & Motorcycles

I replied: That would be Piaui in the NE of Brazil.  Not too far
from Fortaleza where I got my gem biz start from an Australian
opal miner who lived there. Steve G. 

Rick, No I haven’t had or seen hardly any Brazilian Opal since 1979
when I met Neville the Australian guy in Brazil who got me into this

It was 1979 and Chris Boyd and I were on our way north after a year
riding our BMW motorcycles from Denver to the tip of South America -
Ushuaia. While passing thru Fortaleza (eastern city in Brazil kinda
near Africa) a blonde blue eyed dude in a Volkswagen started honking
and yelling in English at us. Next thing you know we were his and
his Brazilian wife’s guest, having dinner with them and staying at
their house. Soon after that he showed us his business, told us all
about his Brazilian opal mining ventures and sold us $400 worth of
aqua, opal & amethyst. Both Chris and I were down nearly to our last
traveling money too. We continued N on the bikes up to Belem then
on a boat with bikes up the Amazon to Manaus. From Manaus the gems,
bike and us headed north on a very small Trans-Amazonica dirt (MUD)
road to Caracas. It was rainy season and that road was a killer, not
to mention that the Yanomamo Indians were still ambushing people on
that highway in those days. Once in Caracas we sold enough of the
gems to get all our money back and still had 1/2 the inventory left.
A few months later we were back in the USA and sold even more gems.
Neville had a brother in the USA that I bought some more gems from.
That is how Chris and I got our start in the gem business.

I wish I had some more Piaui Opal though as it was very nice
material. And I too think it is harder (more compact) than any other
in the world.

On another trip down to Brazil on Honda 750s in 1981, I went to the
mining areas and saw how/where it was found. Very interesting. All
about were square holes dug by hand. The holes measured about 3x3
meters and were about 8-12 feet deep. After digging through what
appeared to be an alluvial layer of rounded stones and gravel the
miners came into a “clay” (?) type area that was seamed with white
puttyish opal. This was very interesting as most of this puttyish
material had fire - diffractive play of color. However it was soft
as play-doe and easily smeared between your fingers. Very strange,
especially for a newby to see. Of course there was no good mature
firm opal laying about. That was either still buried or all dug out
sitting in someone’s safe.

Regards, Steve Green
Rough and Ready Gems www.briolettes.com
Fine briolettes in colored gemstones & precision ultrasonic drilling.

Steve, Haven’t seen much in the way of Piaui opal in years.
However, there is a venture called com that is mining opal in the
Amazon. Its called Jungle Gems. Thomas Bond is one of the partners.
I believe that is the URL. They are based in Teofilo Otoni and
have a newsletter.


P. S. Stories about how people blunder into the gem business are
always fascinating. See you in Tucson.